Paideia Conversations, Ep. 8

Spending the season of Advent cultivating an atmosphere of Savior-centered conversation is a goal many of us mamas have, which can honestly feel a little counter-cultural during the weeks before Christmas when the world around us is spinning with gharish decorations and messages of materialism under the guise of incredible sales your holiday can’t exist without. In Cindy Rollins’ book Hallelujah: Cultivating Advent Traditions With Handel’s Messiah, we are encouraged to keep things simple, humble, doable. She writes, “I highly recommend that you do not complicate it too much… Advent is a time of anticipation and joy. What I love most about using Messiah as an outline for the season is that it is just so simple.”

For this paideia conversation, Melissa and Jenn get to visit with Cindy Rollins to talk about the changing dynamics of life seasons from year to year while seeking to cultivate the foundation of a family culture which fosters familiarity, community, and anchors us in Christ. Cindy encourages us that “we do all these things, and we want to be faithful, but it’s Christ that gives the increase.”

While you are wrapping Christmas gifts or taking a walk on a crisp Advent morning, listen in and be encouraged. As Cindy said, “the plodding along as a mom with a family is more important than the actual accomplishing of some great feat of getting it all in during the holidays.”

Links to Resources

Hallelujah: Cultivating Advent Traditions With Handel’s Messiah by Cindy Rollins

Redeemed Reader’s thoughts on Hallelujah

Blue Sky Daisies

Blue Sky Daisies’ Resources for Hallelujah

St. Martin in the Fields

Jesse Tree

Behold the Lamb by Andrew Peterson

Greg Wilbur music

New College Franklin

Waiting on the Word by Malcolm Guite

Love Came Down at Christmas by Sinclair Ferguson

The Dawn of Redeeming Grace by Sinclair Ferguson

Bright Evening Star by Madeleine L’Engle

Christmas at Thompson Hall by Anthony Trollope

The Christmas Books of Charles Dickens

Cindy’s Website, Morning Time for Moms

Cindy’s Instagram

Cindy’s Facebook

Cindy’s Patreon

Episode Transcript

Melissa: joining me today for this paideia conversation is my cohost Jenn Discher from Paideia Southeast, and our guest today is Cindy Rollins. We invite you into this conversation with us we continue to practice, pursue, and implement paideia.
From Day 1: Isaiah 40:1-5 “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
And from Day 25: Revelation 5:12-13 “Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”
My friends, these are words of the Lord and we give thanks to God.
Today as we get to visit with Cindy Rollins, the author of Hallelujah: Cultivating Advent Traditions With Handel’s Messiah, this is the reason, this is the point. In her book, Cindy says, “this is one thing I appreciate about the liturgical year. When it becomes a part of your family culture, it can have a stabilizing effect. As life swirls around us, we have the familiarity of the same activities, traditions, smells, sounds, and words to keep us anchored. And what better to be anchored to than the Church, the Bride of Christ, and as the Bride of Christ, to Christ Himself.” She also says, “we will straggle through the week after Christmas, celebrating one birthday and the new year, but the major festival of the year is now over. I enjoy a couple weeks of recovery by reading, reading, and reading. We are then all ready to return to normalcy. But not without the memory that we are a Christian family, and we have a Messiah.” I’m delighted to introduce to you today my friend, my mentor, Cindy Rollins.
Cindy, have you met Jenn?

Cindy: have we met, Jenn?

Jenn: you know, we actually did. A few years ago at a CiRCE conference in North Carolina. It was a long time ago.

Cindy: oh okay, I know your name, and I know you’re familiar. But I’m, I have a hard time keeping up with that kind of thing.

Melissa: so, Jenn is working with Heather Tully and some other friends down north of Atlanta doing the Paideia Southeast stuff. So…

Cindy: I know! Okay. That’s awesome.

Melissa: so it’s really fun. And Jenn has been so gracious and we’ve had a lot of fun chatting with some people on this sort of medium. But yeah, you look beautiful, by the way, Cindy.

Cindy: oh, thank you, I need to hear that because I’m having a big birthday this week.

Jenn: that’s right! It’s the sixth! Because I just read it in the book yesterday!

Cindy: yes, I’ve announced it to the whole world.

Melissa: St. Nicholas, right, yeah?

Cindy: yeah, St. Nicholas’ Day.

Melissa: so what are you doing for your birthday?

Cindy: oh I don’t know. I’m just gonna go… well we’re going out to eat somewhere. And we’re having like a birthday here and a birthday there. Just different people, college boys coming home.

Melissa: nice.

Cindy: but some people not. So, my husband’s going to celebrate with me on Monday, and then with my daughter and my mother, and then when the college kids come home we’ll do something with them.

Melissa: yeah! Oh fun! Well, it’s nice to see sunshine in both of your…

Cindy: yeah!

Melissa: …both of your rooms. Because I mean, here it’s still dark. And I’m in my closet with my closet door closed.

Cindy: yeah.

Melissa: it’s gray, right? It’s the darkest time of the year, and here up north I feel like it’s darker than where you are.

Jenn: yeah.

Cindy: yeah, definitely.

Melissa: well thanks for taking some time just to – it’s so nice to see your beautiful smile, but then just to chat for a few minutes this Advent season. So both Jenn and I have been encouraged by your book Hallelujah. I have the, I have this one, but then I also, I realized I still have this one too – oh look at that, Jenn and I have both of them right here. [laughter]

Cindy: I have both too.

Melissa: nice! So, was it just last year in 2020 that the second one came out?

Cindy: yes, it was. We redid it last year. Blue Sky Daisies. And they did a fantastic job on it. I got to upgrade some of the essays, which I’m very pleased about. Got a poem from Thomas Banks, that was really fun. And I just love the new, the new one.

Melissa: yeah, it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful. Well, Cindy, could you take just a moment to briefly introduce yourself and maybe tell us why you wrote this?

Cindy: okay. Well, I’m Cindy Rollins. I’m a mother to, I have nine children who are all grown up. And just about to have fifteen grandchildren, so I’m excited about that. And I wrote Hallelujah because I love the whole Christmas season, and when I first wrote it – when I first started celebrating Christmas with my family, I was coming off Christmas traditions with my, you know, my family of origin where I came from. But I didn’t really know anything about this idea of Advent. But slowly as I read and was thinking and really reading cookbooks, I started to realize that there was a different time of year called Advent that led into Christmas. And I just loved that idea. And I had a little book called, a Lutheran Advent book, that I used, I loved it, I picked it up on some table somewhere. And I used it for years. It was just this little family, it was not that dissimilar to Hallelujah. And we had done that for years. So then you know, I decided, as I was… I don’t know if you’re asking me about the book, or about actually Hallelujah the Messiah and all, the whole shibang, but…

Melissa: well, we can get to the whole shibang, yeah.

Cindy: okay, yeah, so then I just decide, I had made up a little, you know, Hallelujah, Messiah, schedule for my family and we used it every year. And then one day I realized, well, I love this idea of putting this in a book like the little book I used, and I’d like to do that too. So that’s sort of how the book was born.

Melissa: yeah, I love that. Jenn, do you want to ask her about how she’s cultivating – how she did it differently as a mother versus a grandmother?

Jenn: yeah! What does that look like now, Cindy? Do you have any opportunities to cultivate Advent traditions with your grandkids? I don’t know how close you live to some of them. Like how has that transition looked now with most of your kids being out of the house?

Cindy: right. No, not really. I mean, with my grandkids, I gave a few of them a copy of Hallelujah, the older ones, when it came out, the new one. I gave them a copy of it so they could kind of remember it. You know, maybe have that – I signed it just particularly for that child. And I don’t see my grandkids a lot during the holidays. I usually see them either, you know, a couple weeks before or a week after, and, or I visit them. But yeah. I still have college kids that come home for Christmas, so my husband and I just don’t pick up and go. And our house is small. And I wish it was, I wish we had gotten a bigger house. I love my house. But I wish I had a bigger house in a way, because then it would make it more conducive. Now if we all want to get together, we really just basically have to rent something somewhere. So we concentrate a lot on Thanksgiving and then everybody kind of does their own Christmas things. But I do, I do have books and stories, I send them Christmas stuff, I send them Christmas packages, and that sort of thing. And I send them cookies because…

Jenn: aww, well… cookies! That’s great.

Cindy: yes, my love language has always been cookies.

Jenn: that’s awesome.

Cindy: and that’s one way I can… I love that. A couple years ago, one of my grandsons said, oh Cece, you make the best cookies! So I feel like I wear that badge very proudly.

Jenn: oh that’s great. See, I love hearing that the book, the Hallelujah book, was born out of a tradition that you were already doing and sort of compiling on your own. I didn’t know that, and I love that.

Cindy: oh yeah, definitely.

Jenn: do you remember what specifically, what kind of grabbed you and led you to do the Messiah in the first place?

Cindy: I do. I remember that very well because, and it, years and years and years we did it before I even thought of turning it into something to sell to other people. And I love that… the thing is, like, I got up this morning and did the Hallelujah, I did my Hallelujah devotions. And I used, I had to pick up the book and think, what day are we in? As a matter of fact, I was a day behind. So I had to do two parts today which was fine because I had time to do that. But that’s one reason I love it so much. It’s not something that gets you behind. You don’t feel stressed or worried. But we, I one day – it was… so we had all these Christmas devotions that we would do in our family. Morning Time during the whole month of December was always all Christmas the whole time. Reading aloud Christmas books, reading Christmas passages in the Bible. And I would use different Advent materials and they would always be focused on the prophecies concerning the coming of Christ in the future. And as I was listening to Messiah one day, well, I bought a CD of the Messiah which is the St-Martin-in-the-Fields Messiah, and Blue Sky Daisies has a resource page for Hallelujah, so if you’re wondering what Messiah to use, I won’t go into that here because it’s confusing, but go to Blue Sky Daisies, go to their resource page, hit Hallelujah, and you can find that there.

Melissa: I will link that to make it easy.

Cindy: yes. My Messiah had a libretto of the words each day, I mean, it wasn’t days, it was just, this is, this one, this one, this one, this one. And every year I’d be looking over that, and then one day it just clicked with me, well these are the prophecies that we’re doing in these devotions. What if we just did these devotions with the CD? And so I started to just read the Bible passages and play the CD. And of course then the CD became, you know, an Mp3, and then it became a streaming. You can find it all over the place, but it was just – it was just a no-brainer at that point. And really, I just feel like it was the Holy Spirit just bringing a bunch of things together that kind of, in a way that I don’t know, it just kind of all came together and I was just, duh. Well this is, you know, this has already been done by Handel, putting these verses together. And what I also love about Messiah – some people use it for Easter. I mean, you can listen to it all year round.

Jenn: yes.

Cindy: but I like the idea of remembrance. So we remember the things in the past. The prophecies that concern the coming, the first coming of Christ, but Messiah takes us beyond that to remember that we have a future hope in Christ. We’re gonna have a second coming, and it ties us both together so beautifully that Christmas really is a wild celebration of this coming of Christ. Not just that He came, but that He is coming again.

Jenn: I love that!

Melissa: I love that!

Jenn: me too! I did not grow up with Advent at all, and I think the things that I’m most attracted to use for my family are the things that do that: putting Christmas in a broader context of, okay, the past and then His coming, and then the future. So like the Jesse Tree and even Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb, that music, seems kind of in the same family.

Cindy: yeah. Right, and that is – those were some of the resources I was using before. Especially the Jesse Tree stuff, I was using some of that. And then, it was like, oh, this Messiah really fits perfectly in with those ideas.

Melissa: so something you say in Hallelujah… you say, “our family has done this year after year after year so that Messiah is part of our hearts and minds. In addition to this simple method [that you use in the book], I sometimes have the whole oratorio in the background just as a remembrance.” So there’s that word again: remembering. And I love that because it does, it’s just a beautiful way to hold those words and the tune as well in our hearts, in our mind, and have it playing in the background and in the forefront. But you say, “Advent is a time of anticipation and joy. What I love most about using Messiah as an outline for this season is that it is just so simple.”

Cindy: yeah.

Melissa: and it’s true! It is. It’s so simple. It’s available everywhere. It is Scripture. It’s familiar and yet when we spend the time to meditate on it, to focus on these details that this book helps us walk through, it’s also profound.

Cindy: yeah.

Melissa: but I love that balance of simplicity with the profound. It’s so encouraging.

Cindy: a couple things happen. First of all, music touches our emotions as well as our, you know, the Scripture touches our mind in a way, and the music touches our emotions, and it kind of brings it all together in a very, very simple way so that, you know, we’re not… sometimes we get these devotions for our families and we’re reading these long passages and then, then we’re, you know… the kids, it’s just like, the kids are just uhh, they’re just tuned out. But this is something ongoing so that each year as they’re hearing this same music over and over and over again, and it’s becoming instilled in their hearts, and hopefully it will be tied to some of the joy of Christmas that you have in your family, because joy is a very compelling testimony…

Jenn: I love that there’s a musical element. It is music. But that helps so much with the remembrance. The remembering versus memorizing kind of concept is, I fee like this is more on the remembering – the remembrance end of that. Or not requiring the kids to memorize the songs. We’re just playing them. And we’re doing it year after year, and they throughout the year will sit around chanting all we like sheep, we like sheep! [laughter] Even in the… it just happens… even in the Shakespeare, I mean, other things besides the Messiah that you’ve included in the book, will come to mind for my kids throughout the year.

Cindy: right, right.

Jenn: And I’m not requiring that they memorize any of that. I love that they are. But it’s just this very gentle kind of repetition over that week and then you move on to something else. But then year after year, it builds.

Cindy: amen. And really, that’s the point of memory. The point of memorizing is not so that we get these facts down or we get this word perfect ideas, but that we have something in our heart that flows through and comes out appropriately. And I like to say that it’s available to the Holy Spirit also in the lives of our children to use when needed. We don’t know when that is, and it’s so much more important than, I’ve gotta memorize this passage, you know. We want the passage in our hearts in love, not, oh yeah I remember that time my mom beat me so that [laughter] I could remember this Bible verse.

Melissa: you say in here actually just echoing what Jenn just said. The entire Advent season is one of remembrance. We are remembering the birth of Christ, but we are also remembering that His birth was foretold over and over again in the Old Testament.” And so that’s where you go back to the prophecies. In Isaiah, and I’m trying to think… obviously Isaiah, but is it Micah and…?

Cindy: Malachi.

Melissa: yeah, Malachi.

Cindy: almost all of the prophets, the psalms, all of Scripture from beginning to end we have… I mean, the entire Old Testament is filled with foreshadowings of Christ and Messiah captures a good portion of that.

Melissa: yeah. Well I was gonna say, the idea of that liturgical year, the Church year – this is the beginning of the year. This is, Happy New Year, Church!

Cindy: yeah.

Melissa: but not having grown up with a liturgical aspect, right, to that calendar, to that thinking of this is new year, this is the beginning and yet this is looking forward… What has that looked like to cultivate that for you, not even necessarily in your motherhood, but just as an individual? What’s that like to have that perspective now?

Cindy: well it’s become more and more important to me the older I get. And one of the reasons I believe it’s so important is it ties us to the worldwide church of Christ. That we don’t stand alone. You know, we’re not the last man standing, as you know, Jesus said, God said to Elijah… was it Elijah… when he said, I’m alone left on the earth. The liturgy reminds us that there are people all over the world that follow these traditions and follow this calendar, and that our reading these verses and our, you know, singing these songs at the same time that we are, and we belong to Christ – all of us who call upon the name of Jesus – belong to Christ! And the church calendar just ties us together a little bit, it just gives us a little solidarity. And I love that it does that, and it increasingly important for me. it gives me so much joy. If I get out like the Book of Common Prayer, and I’m reading for the day those verses, to think, I’m not reading these by myself, I’m reading these with other people in the world that are reading these verses today. So there’s – that is one aspect of it. And I think it brings some majesty and some, the idea of worship that, to our lives. I think the church calendar reminds us that it’s not about us, it’s about something far bigger than us. And that, I like it for that reason. Just as I grow older, and -like you- I didn’t come from a tradition that even knew what the church calendar was. I genuinely was reading a cookbook when I, she had all these feast days, and do this do this do this… and that appealed to my heart in some ways. And we see that God has made that in the Bible. He set up this idea that there are days for feasting and there are days for fasting. And those all… because as humans, He’s made us this way, in His image, so I think this very much appeals to our spirits.

Melissa: I like how you remind that there’s the time for both feasting and fasting in Scripture. And I know reading about, sort of the history of Advent, I think you talk about that in the book – how in some traditions, or in some families even – there’s more of a penitential side to Advent. More in line with what a lot of people do with Lent leading up to Easter, Advent can be more of a penitential season of fasting and pondering and putting off the celebration until Christmas Eve. And then focusing on those those twelve days of Christmas. I love that it’s not prescribed, right? That we can use the book Hallelujah in a different way depending on your family, depending on how the Lord is leading that particular household to honor and set aside and make these days special in remembrance. So I love that too. That it can be used in different ways. I happen to use it the same way you do, but I know not everybody does.

Cindy: no. It can be used in different ways, and I, I truly believe that the more simple your traditions are, the more likely they are to get repeated. And that’s gonna give them way more power. The way we complicate it, the less powerful they become because, for one thing, we’re stressed out and worried and we’re trying to get these things in that we can’t. You know, the family things are going to happen to interrupt things. That’s why, it’s – there’s nothing wrong with finishing… like if you get to Christmas and you’re only halfway through, why not just keep going? You can go into January. Excuse me, you can go into February if you want! You know, I think the plodding along as a mom with a family is more important than the actual accomplishing some great feat of, you know, getting it all in during the holidays.

Melissa: amen.

Jenn: well, kind of on somewhat related… Cindy, how do you – how did your Advent celebrations sort of change over the years as you, as your kids started, you know, getting older, leaving home, and maybe kind of like any tips or perspective you might offer in kind of rolling with those changes and the flexibility that’s needed there?

Cindy: yeah. Rolling with change is – I always say: adapting to change is really a key to happiness in life. If you can’t adapt to change, you’re not going to enjoy life at all. Especially as a woman. Because our lives, I believe that in the lives – women’s lives change more drastically often than men’s lives. Men, you know: a man goes and gets a career and spends his life doing it, then he retires and that’s a major change for him. But a woman. You know, she’s nursing, I mean she’s pregnant first, she’s nursing, she’s having children. You know, she’s building a home in the early years and then just about the time she gets that home all perfect and the way she wants it and she’s got Advent going the right way… somebody grows up! And then it has to change again, because it’s a drastic change to lose even one member of a family because everybody’s role changes. And then that person, you know, everybody settles back and then boom! there it is again. And Mom is in the center of all this change. And then she’s caring for her parents and maybe even her husband’s parents, and all these things, and she’s a grandmother. This is just massive change. And sometimes we can feel like there’s something wrong… change often feels wrong to us, because it’s a change, it’s different, and we don’t know how to adapt to it. But adapting to change is really, really important. And accepting the changes as they come, some are gonna be good and some are gonna be bad and some indifferent – just things you have to adjust to – but just knowing that it’s okay if your life looks a little different one year than it does the next. I’ve had seasons where it looked like my nest was completely empty and it was going to stay empty. And right now, out of the blue, three children – two college boys that had lived in apartments downtown ended up moving back home, and my daughter’s here too, so all of a sudden my totally empty nest is now filled with you know, more people. And that’s a change. I mean, I’ loving it, but it is a change, it is – oh, suddenly, I you know, I have to rearrange my schedule to fit the change. And I can’t, you know, I have to be willing to adapt to that. So all of life is like this and we don’t know. For women I feel like it’s much more, life is much more fluid and I just, I know that some changes can feel really hard, and they can feel like you can’t adapt to it. But if you’re all alone, you can still do many of these things. This is where the church calendar comes in. And I was all alone for several Advents, and I was doing these things that reminded me not only of my time with my family but of my primary relationship which is with Christ. And that’s always gonna be there, always gonna be the same. He is changeless. So if we cling to Him, then we can get through all these changes so much better, so much more peacefully than if we’re, like the Bible says, what is it, torn by every wind of doctrine. You know. We can become very fragile and easily pulled to the right or to the left if we’re not centered on the Changeless One.

Jenn: I love that. On a practical note, as you kind of backtrack even from kids leaving the house and just, you know, maybe even like, high school kids getting jobs and schedules looking different, homeschool schedules looking different, and needing to kind of flex there. Did you find yourself flexing to include those kids? Or was it kind of different in different seasons? Would you hold off on the Advent celebrations until they were home? Or how did you, I don’t know…

Cindy: all of that. At first, I was very reluctant to let anything go. Like Morning Time, I was reluctant to let anybody fly away to let anybody change, let anybody go to work. I found myself saying, well we’ll wait until they get home. And then one day I realized, oh, you know, this is the beginning of the end. They’re not coming home. Not all the time. [laughter] So you’re gonna have to adapt here. And I think sometimes it’s okay just to say, you know what, everybody’s not gonna be here for this. It’s better to do a little bit in the morning, maybe with whoever is there, whomever is there. And then just be okay with the fact that, hey, this other, the other child that’s like flown the nest or not available or at work or whatever, is still benefitting from the rhythms of the family even if they’re not there. They see that those rhythms are going on, and that means they’re important. So you kind of just have to take solace in that, and then…

Jenn: that’s sweet.

Cindy: …eventually when they start their own homes and their own families, they’ll find those things coming back.

Melissa: I feel like that addresses that idea of purposed cultivation of family traditions, and the blessing that that is. I mean, you can try to do all the things, you can throw it all out there and see what sticks.

Cindy: yeah.

Melissa: but I feel like that idea of purposely cultivating, purposely planting and seeing what the Lord brings from the harvest… I feel like that’s what you’re talking about.

Cindy: yes, I do too. That you purposefully do these things. And that is, once again, why Messiah is so perfect for this season. Because you can easily do this every year and it not grow old, it not become something stale or, you know, it’s not just Mom yakking away in the background about, you know, this and that and the other thing. It’s really centered on Christ, really centered on the Scripture, and the music is beautiful. So it’s a simple tradition that can easily be repeated. Whereas sometimes, I mean, we had years where we were doing whole crafts around the nativity. You know, we make this this day, we make this that day… and those were fun years. But those aren’t the years that are going to be continually repeated year after year after year. Because it would be hard. And it would be inappropriate at times, whereas this is appropriate in every season whether you have an infant in a crib or you’re all alone like me in the mornings with your devotion.

Jenn: I hadn’t honestly thought of that element of it, but it’s true. It is something that you grow into, and it’s age appropriate the whole time! And it also doesn’t get old, I mean, because like you said, it’s straight Scripture. It’s all Scripture, and Scripture never gets old, so that’s – I love that.

Cindy: yeah, living and active. So you can’t go wrong with Scripture.

Jenn: yep!

Melissa: what was your connection with Greg Wilbur, speaking of the connection to the music? Because he talks in the book about the actual listening, what to listen for. What’s your connection with him?

Cindy: he’s my friend. [laughter] And I said, Greg, can you do this? And he said, sure, I’d be glad to. I’ve known Greg a long time. In fact, he was our… we went to Parish Pres in Franklin, Tennessee. It was our church and Greg was the song director at that church. He’s at a sister church to that at this point at Cornerstone, also in Franklin, Tennessee, now. And Greg is a composer, he has written church music, he has several albums that you can get on iTunes of church music -very beautiful church music. We like to listen to his music on Sunday mornings, put him on and listen. But, so, Greg – we had gone to church with Greg, and, I continued knowing him over the years, so I just, he was the first, my first go-to person. Who could do this, who could explain this music? And Greg did that for me. And Greg, we, this summer, I had my moms’ summer discipleship course which I run every summer. And we have a, we always do a composer, we always study a composer during that time. And this year we did Vivaldi The Four Seasons, and Greg – I asked him to do a class on that for during the summer. He came in, he blew that music wide open! I mean, I love the music and the music stands alone. But for someone to explain the way he did, the music was so phenomenal. So he’s just a very talented musician, he understands classical music and he understands church music. So he was just the go-to guy.

Melissa: yeah.

Cindy: and he is heavily involved in New College Franklin, which is a great place if you’re looking for somewhere to send your children to school or… that that is a very wonderful place.

Jenn: I’ve enjoyed, I’ve liked his commentary on the, in the Hallelujah book a lot. I don’t read it all aloud to my children but I’ll pull out bits, and it gives them something to look for and when they’re listening, just things to recognize. And their understanding has grown over the years. It’s been neat to see.

Melissa: starting tomorrow we’ll be using little bits of that in our weekly co op for the next few weeks during Advent

Jenn: oh, fun.

Melissa: during our Collective, we’ll be listening to the Messiah and so I’ll be sharing bits from Hallelujah, and specifically sharing some of Wilbur’s perspective in what to look for. So I get to share that a little more broadly

Cindy: that will be great.

Melissa: well, as we wrap this up, what are you reading and listening to besides maybe Hallelujah and the Messiah this Advent season?

Cindy: yeah, this year – so I usually read Malcolm Guite’s – for several years I’ve read Malcolm Guite’s poetry book for Advent, which I love, but I’ve read it now a couple times. And I wanted to go a different, you know, a different direction. So I am, one of the things I’m reading is a Sinclair Lewis – I mean, Ferguson, what’s his name. I mean Sinclair Ferguson. He has two different Advent devotionals that I’ve downloaded to my Kindle. And I haven’t started them yet, but I’m excited about those. Because they’re very, from what I understand, they’re very meaty and full of – I’m like, should I read one this year and read one next year or should I just do both? You know, we’ll see. We’ll see how that goes. I’m also, for fun I’m reading this, our book club is doing Christmas at Thompson Hall and other Stories by Anthony Trollope.

Jenn: oh fun!

Cindy: they’re Christmas stories. So we usually, so we, our book club has done like, one year we did A Christmas Carol, and then Dickens’ The Chimes. And we had run out of Dickens’ stories, we did The Cricket on the Hearth. So we’re like, what can we read? So somebody found these Trollope stories that we’re gonna… Trollope has some Christmas stories, Connie Willis has some Christmas stories. So those are just fun side, a side Christmas reading. I’m gonna read the Madeleine L’Engle Christmas book, which is called… oh I forget what it’s called. But I’m gonna be reading that this year, I’ve actually started it but I don’t know the title of it. So, Bright Evening Star: a Mystery in the Incarnation. So I’m looking forward to that. I like Madeleine L’Engle’s books, and I’m excited to read some of that. So those are a few. I tend to overindulge in Christmas reading during the holiday season, so hopefully! But I have actually pulled out some books that I started last year for Christmas for devotions and didn’t finish, and I’m just gonna – I’m not gonna start over on those books. I’m gonna just pick up right where I left off, and maybe I’ll finish them this year.

Melissa: that’s such a good idea!

Cindy: yeah, because you get discouraged, and then next year you think, I’ll start over, I’ll start over. So you’ve read the first five chapters or something twenty times and never gotten to the end. [laughter]

Melissa: that’s so wise!

Jenn: that’s some good plodding! I love it! [laughter]

Melissa: oh, well this idea of building expectation and anticipation during the Advent season – hope and joy and cultivating tradition – it’s just lovely. And I’m so thankful, not only for you spending the time this morning, but the time that you spent putting together this book and for how you’ve shared stories from your own motherhood. It’s encouraging for those of us who are in these trenches, sitting in our closets with the laundry, and the Christmas presents piled over there. The reason we do these things, the reason is Christ! And it’s connecting not just with our children, not just with this season this year, but with -like you said- the Church at large, and the Church throughout time. Because it’s about our relationship with Christ and what He has done for us. And the Incarnation and that miracle. I just really appreciate you taking the time to chat about all of those things with us this morning, Cindy.

Cindy: well thank you for asking me. I love talking about Advent, so it’s always fun.

Jenn: thank you.

Melissa: yeah – well, Cindy, it’s been a joy actually just to get to know you over the last couple years. And just on a personal note, praying for you and seeing the Lord continuing to work – it’s such a blessing because I think we can get caught up in that idea of here and now. And my kids are all still little; we don’t even yet have a high schooler. But that the Lord is still at work in your motherhood, and I love that. And it’s not about what you do, it’s about what He does.

Cindy: amen. The more, the older I get, the more I’m convinced of that. That it is! We do all these things, and we have to, we want to be faithful, but it’s Christ that gives the increase.

Melissa: well that’s, that’s the thing that I remember… I asked you… I don’t remember the exact question I asked you actually. But your answer to whatever the question was is that God is faithful. Stop. [laughter] Like, full stop. God is faithful. That testimony that He brings through you is a blessing and an encouragement.

Cindy: well thank you. And He definitely is faithful. I know that. This I know!

Melissa: well, Happy Advent, Cindy, and Merry Christmas, and God bless you! We will talk again.

Jenn: thank you.

Cindy: thank you.

Melissa: okay, buh-bye.
You can pick up your own copy of Cindy Rollins’ Advent book Hallelujah: Cultivating Advent Traditions With Handel’s Messiah. It’s published by Blue Sky Daisies and can be found anywhere your favorite books are sold. And you can find Cindy at her website. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and in her Mere Motherhood Facebook Community Group. Her favorite place to connect with people is in her Patreon Group.
Thanks for joining us today, and thanks for listening in with Cindy as we talked about Hallelujah.
Cultivating an Advent tradition is just one way of cultivating a godly paideia during this particular season with your children, for yourself, and continuing to pursue an atmosphere and a culture of Christ.
And that brings today’s conversation to a close. You can find more conversations on paideia at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for more resources and practical encouragement. Join me again next time for another Paideia Conversation. And in the meantime, peace be with you.

Paideia Conversations, Ep. 7

Katie Westenberg joins Paideia Northwest’s Melissa Cummings today in a dialogue about motherhood, family culture, book writing, and resting in the peace of the Lord. Katie will be speaking at the Paideia Northwest conference in one week, and this is a sneak peek into the energy, joy, and passion she will bring to our day of Rest. While all the time sharing about the need for open hands and extra measures of grace, Katie has words of wisdom and perspectives of gratitude which translates into exhortations not to grow weary in the good word of raising children in the nurture, admonition, and enculturation of Christ. From resurrecting picture books in her read aloud rotation to digging in to deep conversation with her teens, Katie tells us what the atmosphere of Christian family life looks like in this current season of their home. To the Kingdom!

Links to Resources

I Choose Brave

Walt Whitman: Words for America

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

Finding Winnie

Hello Lighthouse

Outdated by Jonathan Pokluda

Becoming Something podcast

Episode Transcript

Melissa: joining me today for this paideia conversation is Katie Westenberg. We invite you into this conversation with us as we continue to practice, pursue, and implement paideia. All right, joining me now is Katie Westenberg, and we get to enjoy Katie at Rest coming up next month, but in the meantime I get to have a little chat with her and we get to have a conversation about paideia and rest and all of these things from the perspective of motherhood, and also home educators. So thank you for taking the time to join me and have this conversation. I really appreciate it!

Katie: yeah, it’s my pleasure.

Melissa: so first, just tell us about you and where you are, what you do… tell us about your book, just give us a little background on Katie.

Katie: okay. Well I’m from south central Washington, so like the non-Seattle part of the state. Most people – I guess this is kind of local, but it seems like when I say Washington, people just assume Seattle. But it’s kind of different. It’s dry, and there are a lot of vineyards out here. And I grew up really kind of focused and driven, and so just, in this small town where there’s only, I don’t know, maybe only a half a dozen stop lights. And, but I always yearned to leave the small town for the big town, you know. Just the small town girl who wanted something bigger and different, and it was interesting to think about that lately, because I had a great childhood, and great upbringing, great parents who were followers of Christ. My dad was a pastor, so I, you know, I had a great home, but I, it’s interesting that I wanted to go to the big city. So anyway, after high school, I left for college to get a communications degree, and just plans and dreams of a bigger, a separate coastline maybe. A different coastline. And ended up coming back and marrying my high school sweetheart.

Melissa: I love that.

Katie: and so I, yeah, finished up and went a long way. So I really live like ten miles from where I was born, the hospital doesn’t exist anymore but yeah. Traveled far and wide from there. And, but I had that business degree and kind of plans for that, but it wasn’t, you know, shortly we after, we had started having children, we put my oldest in to preschool at the Christian school that we graduated from, had a great experience there, hadn’t really thought anything different until we really started considering homeschooling. And mainly it was just from seeing other people do it well. You know, I had these assumptions of what it might be but when we saw other people do it well, I thought, wow, this might be something to consider. And so then we did the preschool thing, and then came, brought him home because I thought – like everyone – like how bad can you mess up kindergarten? We’ll just try this for kindergarten. And then the babies kept on coming. So now we have four kids – two girls and two boys – the youngest is nine and the oldest is now sixteen, and we’ve just been educating them at home all along, although my oldest is in Running Start now so that’s a little more hands-off. This is the first year where I have someone doing a little something different, but it’s, I guess all in all, just a story of God’s plans being so much better than my own. Which is probably all of our stories down at the base of it.

Melissa: mhmm.

Katie: and then just in these last few years as they’ve gotten more independent, and my role is probably a little bit less hands-on throughout the day, there’s just been more opportunities to write and speak a little bit, and so God has grown that. And I was able to write a book last year, it came out, well actually I wrote it the year beforehand, it’s a process but it came out last year. And yeah, I just do a little bit along with all my other home duties.

Melissa: yeah, yeah. So, your kids are – three of them, then – you’re homeschooling, and what’s something you love about that right now? Or what’s something that you do with them that you love?

Katie: I love… I just love being a part of all of it. You know, there’s like, inside jokes and relatable moments that come from just being together. Just experiencing life together. Reading the read aloud together, which becomes a joke later on during dinner or whatever. So I just like not missing it, maybe that’s like kind of selfish. But I like not missing any of the moments. Or when the spelling word that was misspelled pops back up at dinner, it’s just the easiest way to teach because I don’t have to think okay, where are they? What do I need to figure out? What do I need to unpack? What do I need to… What do I need to process with them, because that’s not exactly what we agree with? Like I’m here for all of it. And so it just becomes so much more integrated so that’s one thing I really love about teaching them. And even my… so my oldest who does Running Start, that’s all online this year, so he’s here too. So we’re still doing like our Morning Meeting together, he’s still a part of that. And it’s really sweet to hold onto that a little longer.

Melissa: okay, so you’re talking about that sort of integrated… integrated thing, which is very – that comes really naturally to us as homeschool moms, I think. And I was homeschooled my whole, you know, pre-college education. So I’m curious since you went to a Christian school, you said, how do you find that different? That whole integration. Do you think it’s easier? Not that you were the mom when you were the student… but do you think the integration of that is just more organic, more natural?

Katie: yeah, certainly, because you can’t, you can’t ask questions you don’t know to ask. Right? When you don’t know what happened during history class, I can’t like extend that learning at home without, I mean, you could and I’m sure some parents do an excellent job of it.. but it would be a lot of work to constantly know where you’re at, to constantly know what figures you’re studying or where you’re at with math, or… it’s almost when there’s a problem, that’s when you dig in to what’s going on there. So there’s little issues that we’re able to maybe mitigate but at the same time, I think it – our lives are so much more intertwined. And so I just grew up with one brother, and, and that’s different too. When we have two kids of the opposite sex. But I think it seems easier, at least from my limited perspective – obviously I’ve only been a mom once, right, but it seems like it, it’s easier to create a bonded family because there’s so much overlap of life and learning and… and even, you know, the learning that comes from negative experiences when we bump into each other and we’re forgiving and all that stuff. We don’t have much – as they get older maybe it happens a little bit more – but particularly when they’re younger, we don’t have separate lives. We don’t have a separate day you need to tell me about. It’s all of our day, all the time, the good and the bad and the ugly and the processing. So it just seems like it builds a really close family. That’s what I notice the difference being.

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Melissa: yeah. I feel like that builds that right into that question of the term, paideia, then. So I don’t know how familiar you are with the term or its roots or its application. What is your familiarity with that Greek word, or what does it mean to you? Is it just this totally unknown, brand new – it’s all Greek to me?

Katie: yeah [laughter] I was thinking that. What’s my level of familiarity? I think it means, my level’s at, I know how to say it but maybe not spell it. Right? Like there’s too many vowels that I’m constantly mixing those up. So I don’t know what that says about my level of familiarity, but you might – I love to study Scripture, I love to read the Bible and try to unpack it in my limited knowledge, my growing knowledge. And I… My favorite thing about the Word is that it’s living and active, and you can read it again and again, and things jump off the page that you didn’t know were there.

Melissa: yes. Yeah.

Katie: so I’ve come across paideia mainly, you know, in Ephesians. And wondered what that is. And I think I’ve talked to you about that: oh look, I saw this! This is where you got it, it’s so amazing! So for me, my learning probably has been, like, I didn’t know, even though that was probably part of my life when I was young, I didn’t know the word itself until I was older. But I think of it as a, the cultivation of mind and morals. It is the integration that I was talking about. Right? It’s all of that! It’s not just education, it’s all, like all of life is education. What we’re cultivating together.

Melissa: right yeah, it’s not just at eight to three, and what we do in order to attain a diploma or something.

Katie: yes.

Melissa: or it’s also not just the, what we would call, the spiritual stuff. It’s not just Sunday mornings, it’s not just you know, a quiet time devotional, it’s so broad and deep compared to that. So how… thinking about that, and that depth and that all-encompassing integration, what is a way that you think you purpose to bring that into your home with your children in your family? If we’re talking about it as a term of enculturation, and specifically in Ephesians when it says paideia of the Lord, right, it’s not just – it’s not an American culture, it’s not as in that time a Greek culture or Roman culture – but as citizens of heaven, what is this culture that we’re trying to nurture? What is a way that you purpose to do that in your home?

Katie: a fun way that we’ve done this in the last year is… and I think it’s without like explicitly saying, it’s getting, I mean, what we’re saying is that you can’t really put this in a box, right? We want to. So I could have memorization time with my kids, and there’s nothing wrong with memorization, right? But they so easily want to put things in a box that they could think like, oh yeah, this is our Jesus time and this is our rest of the time, or whatever. But I’m trying to get them to see the bigger picture of, like, this is all of it. Like it’s all for Him. So one fun thing, and maybe unsuspected thing in our home… in the last, probably year, is that I’ve incorporated picture books again. So Bo is my youngest, and he’s nine, and so, as it kind of is with the youngest, they get kind of shortchanged on some things, you know. We round toward the middle usually, right? So I guess everyone besides the middle, you know, doesn’t get shortchanged. But, so I just realized a couple years ago that I hardly had read him any picture books. Like he’s heard so many more chapter books than maybe the oldest did when he was his age, and so I started like on Sunday afternoons we’d sit and just pick three picture books I want to read you. Cuz like he didn’t know who Frances was, from Bread and Jam for Frances, and I was like, I am doing something really wrong! [laughter] How are you missing this? And all the other kids are just horrified that he doesn’t know some of these characters. Anyway, so then I talked to a mom about a year ago, and she incorporates picture books all the time, and my first inclination was probably a little bit prideful like, why would you do that when you could be reading chapter books? Why would you be reading picture books every day? But I started following a couple who recommend picture books all the time. A couple accounts on Instagram that read, like, good quality picture books. Some of them are biographies, some of them are just excellent art, some of them – I think I was telling you about this – one was about Walt Whitman’s life, and how he used his words basically to help the wounded troops and how he wrote his poem about Abe Lincoln, you know, and all of that… and just stories we never would have known otherwise. People we never would have known otherwise, and just, just, just living their life in normal ways. Right? Like, look at the beautiful artistry in this – how could this reflect God’s glory? And I’ve seen my kids, my older ones, my teenagers – like, as I have that open, if they can be there for Morning Meeting, I love it when they can, and then they’re just like drawn closer. They’re across the room and they’re coming closer, because they want to hear the words of this book or they want to see… it’s kind of comical right? I mean, because it’s a picture book. There’s only a couple hundred words in the whole book. But they’ve been really instrumental for like, just using beautiful language, seeing beautiful words, hearing beautiful stories, and learning more about beautiful lives that maybe we would’ve put in a box like, those things are for chapter books. But no, this is just more to our day. More beauty, that we never even saw coming. So that’s just been a really fun way to do that.

Melissa: yeah, yeah. I think it’s really interesting too, because my teenager is… I only have one teenager so far, but he’s the same way. Even if I’ve… I try to just read one on one with each child now and then… and if I’m reading something with the five year old that the thirteen year old remembers or he thinks, oh that sounds interesting, he will stop doing, you know, what he’s doing! Even though he loves computer programming, he notices Mom just sat down to read a picture book with the little brother! He wants to come over and see it. It is. It’s really funny. I mean, I love picture books! Yeah.

Katie: yes! yeah.

Melissa: but I think they also can be a catalyst for further research. We had a picture book on… was it Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library, I think is what it’s called? And we loved that one. And so then the kids wanted to find out about Thomas Jefferson. Or that… Winnie… Finding Winnie. They wanted to find out about Winnie, I think that one’s illustrated by, is it Sophie Blackall? Anyway, she’s lovely. And they wanted to find out about this bear from World War I that was then, you know, the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh. And so they wanted to take what they got from the picture book and go explore, you know, well, then what? What happened next? So it’s almost like they’re just little introductions, especially for the older kids. You know, my five year old will read Hello Lighthouse and just say, oh that’s a great picture book, I love the art, I love the story. But then my oldest is like, well, now I want to go study the architecture of lighthouses and the historical connections that they have with the navy, and all these different things. I’m like, oh, wow, I didn’t realize that was going to send us off on that rabbit trail. So, yeah, I think that is such a good, good tip! Such a good way to build those connections with our kids and… how did you put it… beauty is what you said. Just how to incorporate beauty.

Katie: yes. And it’s so, at least for me, was just so under utilized. I just kind of thought we had graduated from those, but, I mean, it really is like five minutes, ten minutes a day. And then you gave them that, that they can take elsewhere and I find that we don’t, I mean, chapter books take a while. Particularly when we read them together, because one kid might be gone in the afternoon, and so nobody reads without the kid that’s gone, you know, so we might read all together four days a week. So they’re kind of slow. And that’s fine. We still enjoy those of course. But I can give them so much more. I can’t get to all the chapter books I want to read with these kids! There’s not enough time for how many books I want to read.

Melissa: oh, it just breaks my heart! [laughter]

Katie: I know! Isn’t it sad? But I can supplement with these picture books, and like, hey look, we learned about this today, we learned about this person. And who knows which one is going to inspire them or which art style is going to inspire them. But it’s just exposure that’s really sweet. We can do it a little bit at a time, and yeah, it’s great learning.

Melissa: yeah, yeah. So that sort of is this idea of… a glimpse of paideia is what we’ve been calling it at Paideia Northwest and Paideia Southeast… is a glimpse of paideia. So that’s, right there, I’m imagining you, you know, snuggled up with your nine year old, and the older ones coming in and looking over your shoulder and listening in. Seems like a great glimpse of paideia. Are there any other things that come to mind with, what’s something that you’ve seen in your home or with your kids that sort of just speaks that enculturation to you?

Katie: lately it’s been a lot conversations, and maybe this is the factor of my kids getting older. So the oldest is sixteen and then thirteen, and eleven and nine. And there’s so many conversations to be had, particularly in the the world right now. There’s things that they’ve never seen before, or we’ve never seen before. The amount of vitriol that you see or hear or this person or people we agree with or don’t disagree with – it’s so interesting, you know. What does this mean? And it’s, so they’re hearing new things about mandates and such, and they’re trying to figure out how to process that. But the opportunity for conversation is soo ripe, like never before. And talk about, so let’s integrate, what does this mean to be Christlike in this situation? What does it mean to love well when you disagree? You know. What does this look like? So it feels like were working in real time. Like the opportunity is so rich just to have those conversations and talk about when it’s hard and talk about when we… they’re always asking, well what are you guys gonna do? What are you gonna do, Mom and Dad? About anything that comes up. What do you think about that? What do you think about that person who said, you know. And it’s hard because sometimes we’re processing too, you know. And we’re just honest. We’re praying about this. We’re asking the Lord. I don’t really know. This is a really hard situation. You know? This is hard when people don’t agree, when believers don’t agree – all of that. So right now it’s just conversations. And even as hard as they are, I can be thankful that I get to walk them through this when they’re in my home. We’re lucky to have all the time in real time.

Melissa: yeah. That’s such a blessing. So you mentioned picture books as sort of this broad category of, like a resource for encouraging an enculturation of – yeah, godly, just that godly culture and that pursuit, that intentional… what is a specific resource that you would encourage other moms to try out?

Katie: yeah, okay. Well, I would say first of all… and, I feel like I’m an old mom because I keep on saying these older kids. And I don’t know when that happened! But it changes as they get older. So one example is that with my older son, he’s sixteen, okay, and we’re not pursuing the dating thing or anything like that now. But my husband and I had an initial conversation about, we want to have those conversations in some ways before he’s ready because before emotions are involved right, before we’ve gone down a lane, like let’s talk about these… I want all of those things to be things that we talk about progressively, and so you know as they go along, so it’s not just like: so one day, here’s how it’s gonna be let’s process how these things go. So sometimes as they get older it’s not being afraid of the resources because we can process, if we have these great lines of communication then we can discuss them together. So one thing we just discussed was Jonathan Pokluda’s book Outdated for older kids. And he has a podcast too that my son likes, Becoming Something. Okay? And so he’s talking about common topics and then we’re discussing them together, so they come back and they’re bouncing off us. But the other day, so Tyler came in and he was telling me about some podcast he was listening to. And it was talking about… actually we were listening to it together… we were traveling and so we were listening to it together. All the younger kids weren’t there to learn about dating at nine years old or whatever. So we, because there are age limits for these things, right? But it was talking about honoring one another. Like, this is what we do when we form relationships: we seek to honor other people. Which is such a great thing to process in any of our relationships, in sibling relationships or whatever. So we were talking about honoring one another, and then also, as you potentially pursue something to define the relationship. To be really honest communicators. To not manipulate anyone. To be really honest about where you are and what you’re thinking, you know, all of those things. So processing those things, and talking with Tyler, and he’s easy to talk to because these conversations haven’t been some big weird cliff we jump off at some point. So anyway, I was talking to a friend a couple days later, and she and her husband are considering some major changes because, because of the world being the way it is. Major changes. And they were hard to process. And she said, I don’t know, my husband came and said, considering a move and all of these things. And she said, however, one thing that has really helped me is that he has always been the best communicator with me. I know he’s not like hedging things back or maybe like not telling me cuz I can’t handle it all. From the time we started dating, he came up to me the first time and said, I am interested in you, I would like to know you more, can we go have lunch. And so here he is, being this honest, honoring her with the communication and now they’ve been married twenty years, and she has this trust in the way he communicates. So, and it just, I had listened to that podcast with my son, so I was able to go back to him and say, you know what, like, this isn’t just for dating, this is like building relationship and trust in your communication for all of life. And it was just one of those sweet moments, that… I don’t know… sometimes I wonder if like half the stuff just goes like, I don’t know why you’re talking about this. But I think he got the point. When you, when you honor other people in the relationship it’s not just to get yourself a wife. Like this is not just about dating. This is about how we maintain good and healthy relationship through all of our life, and I was able to give him the example of that. So I thought, how sweet, Lord, that You could see this and show it to them. And I don’t know, sometimes it’s like, any of our learning, like reading a picture book. Sometimes it is throwing spaghetti at the ceiling and seeing what sticks. But we do: we keep on doing it, we keep on seeing the opportunities and being thankful for them, and who knows how the Lord may use those.

Melissa: yeah, yeah. Now, I think that’s beautiful. You said the book was called Outdated?

Katie: Outdated by Jonathan Pokluda. And so, we bought… we’ve been through some of it. And so I’m nervous trying to endorse the whole thing. But that’s the deal. That’s all of life when they’re moving at that pace when they’re older and then we’re processing it together. Like, what does this look like? What do you think about this? What do I think? And what does the Bible say? And he lines things up with Scripture incredibly well.

Melissa: I love how you use the word honoring. To honor one another. I want to use that with my kids actually. I use the words, you know with their sibling interactions, I tell them, you know, respect one another and be kind with one another. But if you combine those two things together, respect and kindness, it would boil down just to honoring one another. That’s, that’s straight shooting terminology right there. That’s beautiful. I appreciate that!

Katie: one fun tip that we’ve been doing with definitions is memorizing definitions. And my pastor is good at this, so he’s influenced me. And being a word nerd, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it on my own. But sometimes we say “honor” to our kids and they’re like, okay, I’ll act like a soldier. Like, they have, they have all kinds of different ideas. So what does it mean? We’ve been going through the definition every day of love: it’s preferring one another, sometimes at great personal expense by the help of the Holy Spirit. Like, let’s give you terms, that, what would that mean? What would it mean today? And then if we were going to prefer one another, what does it mean right now when we’re all wanting the food or you want to watch your movie, or you know? So I would encourage, just definitions to those terms too.

Melissa: yeah. Oh that’s such a good idea. Definition of honor! Yeah. I’ll start there.

Katie: right?

Melissa: something I was discussing recently with someone else too was this idea that we’re raising our kids in the culture of the Lord for His kingdom and yet we are being shaped right alongside them. And so these things that I want to give my children, and bless them with – it’s also a gift for myself.

Katie: right, constantly!

Melissa: yeah. These, these conversations! It’s not just about us, you know, by God’s grace, being this culture-shaper for our children. It’s – God is the culture-shaper of us! You know. We’re His children. And He’s doing that for us as well. And it’s so big. It’s so big.

Katie: which makes aging not all that scary, right? We just have so much more to learn! A lot more time to learn it.

Melissa: it’s true. Yeah. So talking about all these things, and having all the kids and the conversations and the books and the home education and your speaking and your writing… I mean, it sounds like a lot! It sounds exhausting, right? How does the idea of pursuing rest come in to the picture for you? As an individual or as your family, your family culture, how do you find rest necessary?

Katie: well, it’s vital. And usually we don’t recognize that until we hit the wall, you know? Until we crash and burn in real life. And, yeah, I’m missing something here. One thing for me is just margin on the calendar. I used to be someone who’d look at a calendar, and a blank space is open space. And until you filled all the spaces in and realize you can’t pivot, and maybe that’s getting older, more kids, all the things. Like pivoting day to day to different things can really add up quickly. So then it became something as simple as, okay if this is what’s happening this day, maybe the afternoon before it is full too. You know? Like just putting, like I had to write in margin because I didn’t seem to think of it on my own. So if we’re traveling this day, that means I actually write it the day before. We’re big campers, but prep day for camping can be more exhausting than a whole camping trip, right? So I need to know the day before, that no, I’m just gonna say no. And it didn’t feel like- you know, if it’s open you can’t say, no, I’m busy. But you can. I have to make space for that. Because it’s a limited quantity. My capacity is limited. And so I think I need to recognize that no, I can’t just keep on adding. Because it’s gotta take from somewhere else, right? There’s nothing else to give. And all of a sudden we’re picking up McDonald’s because I’m just too exhausted, right? And that’s not, that’s not the way I want to live. I have to have capacity for that. So keeping those margins. And then I’ve kind of adopted a process which is not, I mean it’s nothing set in stone, but it’s just what seems to work for our family. Andy Crouch, I think it’s Andy Crouch, who has the orange book. Tech-Wise Family. Okay? Yeah, checking your family. And he takes a break. He tries to encourage taking a break, one hour a day, one day a week, one week a year. And I in my head formulate rest to being the same way. Now is that always possible? Absolutely not. And there’s some days where, I remember this just like where my kids were little too, and they don’t sleep through the night.

Paideia Conversations, Ep. 3

In this episode, Paideia Northwest’s Melissa Cummings reconnects with longtime friend Jen Carlson of Hysa House. Jen shares what godly paideia includes for her young family, emphasizing hospitality, music, Sabbath… and ultimately a variety of ways to make the gospel centered home nothing less than delicious.

Including specific book and music suggestions, and personal insights on how to live Christianly while pursuing all that is good and true and lovely, this is a golden conversation. To the Kingdom!

Links to Resources Mentioned in this Episode:

New Saint Andrews College

Hysa House

Psalm 34:8

Philippians 4:8

Slugs and Bugs

Sing the Bible, Volume One

Bach’s Cello Suites

Paul Desmond

Baby Believer books

Radiant by Richard Hannula

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Rose

Transcript

Melissa: Joining me today for this paideia conversation is Jen Carlson, and we invite you into this conversation with us as we continue to practice, pursue, and implement paideia.
I want to introduce to you a friend of mine, we’ve known each other actually for a long time, and I’ve been able to follow what God has done in her and in her family over, I don’t know, over a decade or decade and a half. And I’m really grateful to introduce my friend, Jen Carlson. Good morning!

Jen: good morning! So fun to be on here with you, Melissa. Thank you for having me.

Melissa: absolutely. So before we jump into our conversation topic today, why don’t you just tell us a little bit about you, your background, and what your current work is.

Jen: so, my name is Jen Carlson. I’m married to Joe, we’ve been married eighteen years; and we got married young, while we were students at New Saint Andrews, and so this is a shameless plug right away for New Saint Andrews. We both attended and we knew each other way, way back since the fourth grade, so we ended up getting married halfway through NSA and just loved our time there. And everything that we learned there, the culture, the beauty of Christ in the home, the beauty of Christ in education, just took that with us and we were very changed by it, very shaped by that. And I can’t say enough about our time there. New Saint Andrews is an, if you guys don’t know, it’s in Moscow, Idaho, and we were originally from California, and so it was just a, it was an eye-opening thing and I tell you – Joe and I don’t go a day without really talking about the effect, the beautiful effect, that that had on our lives. And I’m talking about this now because it’s gonna come up later in our conversation, I think, with Melissa. But, like, it is such an important thing to have that kind of shaping at such an age. We were, you know, eighteen nineteen years old, and we were living with families while we were going to NSA and taking our classes, but what we experienced there we really wanted to, once we graduated, we really wanted to take that home, back home with us. Everything that we learned about living robustly in, you know, a Christward life. Living joyfully and living robustly, I just can’t say enough about how impacted we were in that area, and even down to the details as I was living with my host family, the mom would make meals for the family every night. We would all sit around the table every night for dinner, including her boarding students, we all got to sit at her table. She always had cloth napkins for every dinner, it wasn’t like just – and I’m not saying you guys need to do this – but for her, this was what she wanted to do, she beautified her home this way. And boy, I tell you, I did not experience that growing up. I didn’t understand the beauty of the table, the way that it brings people together, the way that it’s… anyway, you know, it’s just a beautiful thing. So she taught me so much about the home and about hospitality. And Joe experienced similar things in the family that he was living with too. So when we got home from college, we really decided very intentionally that we wanted to doo this same thing, the way that Joe and Jen might do it. Not trying to copy them exactly, but do it the way that it might come out from our fingertips in an organic fashion in Joe and Jen’s home. So, you know, as you’re a newlywed, we’re not really sure what that looks like, you kind of have to do trial and error. But over the years, we just decided to be, to have an open door. So our home has been a home of hospitality since the beginning. And then Joe became a pastor about eight years ago, an elder at our church back in California; he was an elder for a while and then an associate pastor. And during that time we also had a house on the church property that we had renovated and that we named Hysa House on purpose. And hysa is a Swedish word that means to nourish, to nurture, to harbor, and to house. Like, there are multiple definitions of that word but you get the picture. There’s this sense of, like, just in a warm, enveloping hug when you come into a home and really it – and Joe is actually 100% Swedish, so it kind of made sense to use that Swedish word…

Melissa: sure does!

Jen: so it’s Hysa House! And we actually made a sign and put it at the front door, and we had been practicing hospitality for years at this point. But once he became a pastor and we had a parish home and we actually renovated it to flow beautifully from room to room so that we could have lots of people in there, and cook big meals and feed people and house people and, you know, have beds for people – so, we really made sure that we were intentional about that. And that all came from our college years. It was just, it’s just an amazing thing to think about, just that understanding of hospitality and how powerful home life is. How powerful it is! And so, um yes, we did Hysa House for about four years, and then I got really sick and had to move out of that house because we found out it was moldy. So we spent some, we’ve spent some years in our marriage living with Joe’s parents, and really in some trial and health trials, and just really struggling with that. But I think during that time it was so important that we – God wanted us to be, to have nothing but Him. And so we spent deep hours, deep days, deep years in the Word together. There was a year where I was in bed, bed-ridden, I couldn’t do anything. Joe quit his job to take care of me. This was before he was a pastor. But there are times where God really wanted to sow into us things that we couldn’t learn any other way. And then He also wanted to prepare us for our son who came along when I was thirty-five. So we waited thirteen years, asked the Lord thirteen years; some people wait thirteen years on purpose. So we didn’t, we wouldn’t have chosen that if we had had another way. And yet God, I’m so grateful, I’m so grateful God asked us to wait. And Joseph came to us through adoption after I had been bed-ridden and we weren’t sure if I was going to have a future, if I even was gonna live. And God just brought our hearts together toward Him and toward Joseph. So now we are parents, and older parents, and that is a really unique thing I think. I do think that some women are having babies later in life, and so that’s kind of sort of maybe, you know when you’re thirtyish or something and starting your family. But thirty-five, thirty-six, thirty-seven to really be starting your family, kind of as a surprise, is a unique thing. And having been, after walking through that infertility journey for thirteen years, and really relinquishing our story to the Lord and saying, Lord You’re writing our story. And you know, that was such an amazing journey to walk, and I’m so grateful. But now I’m also so grateful for the fact that God asked us to really be intentional, thoughtful, and proactive in the culture of our home before Joseph even came along. This, this has been so incredibly powerful for him so far. He’s four, and we just love him to pieces! I can’t really imagine, I don’t know, just, I’m so grateful for the ways that God has already shaped the way that our home functions before he even came along. Of course we’ve made some adjustments, and now he’s four and we can really start to pour into him as a four year old might need it. But kind of the basic, the way that the home runs, like, the way that we love God, the way that the music’s going, the way we have interaction with people in our home all the time, like, that’s just happening organically already. It’s not like, okay, now we have children, now we have to sit down and think, like, what are we gonna do, you know.

Melissa: right, you had a home culture and a family culture that you had cultivated for years before Joseph was in your arms to join that family.

Jen: yes, yes! It was like, he – exactly – he’s suddenly joining this conversation that’s already been happening for, you know, these thirteen years. This, you know, conversation of faith that’s happening between these walls. And when we started Hysa House, I remember saying, asking the Lord, like, Lord let Your Holy Spirit dwell here; let this be a place where the Holy Spirit is, and where when people walk in, they sense that there is – they sense You. They taste… I guess, the banner, the banner verse has been, taste and see that the Lord is good. Can somebody walk into our home and taste something about Christ? Even if they don’t know Christ, they don’t know what it is they’re tasting, but they’re tasting something delicious. And they want, they want more of it. And I remember when I was a girl growing up near Joe’s family, we were, they were that to me. And I just remember walking to their house and going, I want to be a part of this family. And I ended up being part of the family, I’m so grateful! But I remember that feeling when I walked into their home. So my inlaws have been very helpful to me in that, showing me how that goes. But that’s kind of our journey, and I think that, I think that, you know, our, just our forte – Joe’s and my forte is just home life, like making it a delicious expression of Christ, you know. A delicious atmosphere. Where we want people to want to be here. We want people to feel nourished, both body and soul. And so that’s gonna tie in to paideia I’m sure.

Melissa: yeah. So tell me about that, you know, you do take that home culture with you. So you’ve recently taken a physical journey…

Jen: yes, right!

Melissa: you’ve mentioned California, and then you said back in California. So tell us where you are now, and where you are creating that delicious home at this point.

Jen: yes, you’re right. I totally forgot to say that we moved to Texas, and we are now in Texas, we’re in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, totally different than where we were in California. So it’s a big culture change. But we’re very thankful to the Lord and we’re very excited. My husband is pursuing his PhD at University of Dallas. And this is new for us, we always assumed he would be pastoring and teaching in the church, but God just redirected things and we’re very excited. So we’re here for at least three years while he’s finishing his PhD work. And so we have this little tiny apartment, a little one bedroom apartment on the third floor in, like, the biggest metroplex. I mean, Dallas is probably one of the biggest cities in the country. And so, we’ve got, it’s just a whole new experience. We went from redwoods and ocean and country life to this, you know, fast and furious sort of thing, and this culture here in the city. but what I love about transferring, like, we’ve transplanted our life from California, but nothing’s changed inside our walls.

Melissa: yes.

Jen: I love that so, so much! And it’s been such a source of comfort, number one. And a source of stability for our son, too. And then, you know, our parents actually moved with us, so Joe’s parents and my parents, they all have their own stories as to why it was time for them to move, too, but they’ve also moved with us to Texas.

Melissa: I love that so much.

Jen: oh, it’s amazing, and we are so grateful. It would be so sad if they had to stay behind. But they’re with us too, you know, in their own homes, doing their own thing, and we’re all kind of like twenty minutes away from each other, but when they come over it just feels, you know, it just feels like home. Like, you know, we do our, we’ll talk about this more maybe later, but we’ll do our Sabbath dinners, and that just grounds us, it anchors us to our home culture. So it, I’m very grateful, we’ve been really busy kind of trying to furnish this little tiny place, and make it cozy, make it a place for people to be able to be here. This is something that’s really unique in a tiny, tiny apartment. We were actually very proactive about what furniture do we get for this space, because we actually want a dining table. Like, we want to make that a priority. And at first, we were like, we’re not gonna have any room. But I tell you, I could show you a picture, we have this huge long table that seats twelve people, we have this big long bench that my husband built, and there’s plenty of space. There’s plenty of space for playing on the floor, on the carpet, there’s a couch, there’s a chair, there’s, you know. But we had to think long and hard about, well, what are our priorities? What are our priorities for this little tiny place? And that’s been such a gift. So here we are trying to plant new roots, but I’m just grateful to carry this home culture with us.

Melissa: yes! And that the center of it is Christ, and that is what doesn’t change, and you’re able to prioritize Him and the things that He loves and that Scripture proclaims as lovely. And that’s what you’re doing, you’re carrying His work wherever you go. I love that!

Jen: yes.

Melissa: so, you mentioned the word paideia, and that’s something that we talk about, of course, here. So you know that word, you know where it comes from, Ephesians right – Paul, talking about raising our children in the paideia of the Lord, and how he took that word – the reason he used that word is because it was familiar to the people who received his letter. So what does that word mean to you? I know you’ve already alluded to it, but specifically, wordwise, what does paideia mean to the Carlsons?

Jen: to the Carlsons, obviously, you know, it’s like, it’s a culture. You’re building a culture. You’re educating. But I think, I mean, those are kind of the more definite, the definition of that word is like enculturation or education with an intention. So when it was used back then even in the Greek, you know, the Greek eras, they were intentional about their children growing up in a certain way, right. Because they are people of this, of the state or people of the city. They wanted their, the next generation to be good citizens. So when we think about paideia, we think about it as first of all, it’s very intentional. Whatever you’re doing to, you know, in your home, it’s, well – it needs to be intentional. Your – the culture that you’re creating though, it’s gonna happen no matter whether you think about it or not. So you’re gonna be creating a culture just accidentally, if you don’t think about it and be intentional about it, right?

Melissa: right, nothing is neutral.

Jen: nothing is neutral, and it’s gonna be, your children are gonna be taught one way or another. And what is it that they’re gonna be taught? You’re gonna be shaped one way or another. What are you being, how are you being shaped as the parent? I think, so when we think about paideia for our family, if I’m just gonna boil it down, it’s taste and see that the Lord is good. That’s it. We want, when we think about how we want Joseph to grow up, we want it to be such a delicious atmosphere for him that he’s, like, breathing, he’s eating and drinking and breathing this beautiful, joyful delight in Christ. And right now he’s four, he’s just learning about Jesus, we’re talking about it all the time, he’s asking questions. But before that, he was eating it and drinking it and breathing it before he, you know, before he was even talking, right? So it’s so, I think that, for me it helps me to just boil it down to, what is the essence of it? What is the, almost, what’s the feeling of it that I want to create? Because you can, the, I don’t know, the catechisms and the things to do on the to do list, are very, are important too. We want our children to understand what we believe. We want them to intellectually be there. But we also want their hearts to be wooed by the love of Christ. We want them to be drawn in, not because we’re forcing and dragging them to this, to be this kind of person, but more like, do you know that there’s a loving Creator? Do you know Jesus our King? Like, can you taste Him? Is He awesome? Like, and how do I, how do we express that in our daily life. Like, how do we express that in our home? That’s what Joe and I, that’s how we see it. So paideia is just basically this delicious atmosphere of Christ, and everything we do is trying to, you know, bring Joseph to the feast, right, bring Joseph to the table. And introduce him and let him see with his own senses that Jesus is real, that He is alive, He’s his King, and He’s a delight. Like, He – and we owe Him our allegiance, but also, we love Him! Like, we love Him!

Melissa: what is the chief end of man? Right? It is to glorify God… and we really maximize on that a lot in, I don’t know, in specific Christian circles maybe. But that next part… the enjoying Him! To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. I feel like that’s what you’re getting at. You’re talking about enjoying the Lord, and the culture of Christ.

Jen: yeah. And that, yeah.

Melissa: so you mentioned catechism, you’ve mentioned hospitality – what are some of these ways that you specifically pursue or implement a godly paideia for you son, but then – you also mentioned – we, as adults, we’re still enculturated. And so we still need to be purposed with our own shaping. What are you pursuing specifically?

Jen: well, so obviously, this goes without saying, right. But worship on Sundays is critical. I’m probably preaching to the choir with this podcast audience. But, so that’s a given. So worship on Sundays is absolutely how it begins. That’s the foundation. That that’s obedience to God, and Him saying six days you shall work and the seventh you shall rest. And this is My day for you, and dig in! Do it. Like, enjoy it. Rest, go worship Me, drink your fill. And this is something that – I remember, Joe and I were both raised in the church, and we, Sundays was a big deal. Sundays was, like, our life was church. That’s what it was. Our life was church. So all our friends were there, and our spirits were growing in the Lord, and as we were, you know, learning the Word. So this is what we want for Joseph too. So, Sunday school and church and, you know, any time we can be at church with God’s people, we’re there. And I think that’s a priority. So that’s number one. Without that, everything else falls apart. You don’t have, you know, you don’t have the foundation. So from there, though, you can go in a ton of different directions, and you have all the resources at your disposal. But in our home, one of the things that we do is our Sabbath dinner. And this is something that we learned from our college days, our host families did this. On Saturday nights, we kind of, you know, the busyness of the week is, it just, it could keep going, it could keep running right into Sunday if you don’t let it rest, or we don’t stop it from just bulldozing into the next day. So in order to prepare for the rest, we’re trying, we began right away in our marriage, you know, eighteen years ago, to do this Sabbath dinner. Where basically everything kind of winds down, calms down around the afternoon and we really make this really fun meal, and it is festive, and it’s fun, and we get out the fun dishes, we get out the fancy stuff, we get out the cloth napkins, we light the candles, we turn the music on. And it can be worship music or it can be a good Bach album or it can be a good jazz album or just really beautiful, like, just something excellent. And I, this is something I want to touch on, that God says whatever is lovely, whatever is excellent, whatever is worthy of praise, think on these things. And practice these things! Is what He says there in the end of Philippians. So this is something that we have really embraced and said, whatever is lovely. Well that, kind of, is actually quite a statement. Because if you tried to bring in or keep any sort of worldly music, worldly books, worldly shows, you know, worldly attire, worldly thoughts, like you can’t. If you’re gonna obey that command and abide by it, that says whatever is lovely. Are those things lovely? No. Are they excellent? No. Are they worthy of praise? No. So it’s kind of by nature that you just kind of shed those things and say, well, what is lovely? It’s just kind of an easy weeding out of those things. So on Saturdays we bring in as much loveliness as we can. We also use that opportunity to invite people over to our home. This is our main source of hospitality. Throughout the week our door is always open, people can always come in and out, but on Saturdays we are intentional about inviting strangers in. So they can be people we’ve never met before, they can be our neighbors, they can be our church folk we haven’t spent time with yet. We try to make sure we’re watching the stragglers at church. Is there anyone who needs a place? Is there anyone who needs a meal? Is there anyone who’s lonely? Is there anyone who’s new? Now this is interesting for us right now, we’re the new ones at church.

Melissa: you are new!

Jen: but we’ve already begun to invite people over. And they’re like, wow, Joe and Jen you’re just jumping right in, thank you so much – they’re being blessed by that. But that’s because we can’t not have, we can’t help ourselves, we need to, we need to envelop God’s people. And not just God’s people. We have a bunch of neighbors on our floor that we’d love to have over. So this is our way. Everyone can do it differently in terms of hospitality. But this is our way of really, not only bringing people in to the home life and the home culture, but also bringing them to the table and getting an opportunity for them to taste and see that the Lord is good. And it’s not necessarily, I think we’re a little bit laid back about it. We don’t, like, do a crazy catechism at the table. Although sometimes we do some catechism work, Joseph enjoys that. Sometimes we sing hymns at the table, after we eat. Sometimes we play music, sometimes we play games, sometimes you know we’re just having amazing conversation. We pull out the coffee maker and Joe makes fancy coffees, and you know, we always have a dessert. But what happens is it makes room for, it makes room for the culture of Christ. It makes room for the saints. And you can be as intentional about catechism as you want. We have been very intentional about that, and at other times we’ve just let, you know, we haven’t done catechism at the table. Other times we do it in the mornings, that kind of thing. But for the Sabbath dinner, it is just a time for taste and see. Taste and see that the Lord is good. We really want to put that into all of our senses. We don’t want to just, we don’t want to just intellectualize it and say, we assent to the truth that Christ is. Like, that is not paideia. Paideia is, let’s experience Christ in all the senses that we possibly can that He’s given us to sense Him with. And let’s, taste and see, I think, is such a beautiful verse, and I thank God for that so much. That’s the way that we really begin to live in Him, to really believe Him and to know Him. And thank the Lord we have His Holy Spirit! So He comes in and makes the dining room table something magical, right? The Holy Spirit’s what, without that, it’s just nothing, it’s just a bunch of stuff. You can have a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner with a bunch of people who don’t know the Lord, and it’s a whole different thing than a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner with the table surrounded by people who do know the Lord and who believe in Him and love Him and trust Him and delight in Him. And so anyway, that’s one of the expressions of paideia for, in our family. I think the biggest one, aside from church which is first, the Sabbath dinner is just an anchor in our family culture.

Melissa: yeah. Yeah, I love all of your descriptors! What’s coming out is just joy. It’s this pursuit of joy and this sharing of joy, and of course that ultimate source of joy is Christ.

Jen: right.

Melissa: so I love that.

Jen: yes, Christ is our joy. Christ is our life. And He, one thing I was thinking about recently, was that He, you know, He came – He became man for us. And as I was meditating on His conception in the womb of Mary, you know it, He wasn’t – the hard part for Him was the fact that He had to endure our sin, right. He had to take on our sin. But I don’t believe that He was disgusted by the fact that He had to have a human body. I think that that’s proof, that’s proven by the fact that He’s still a human. He’s delighted to stay human so that He can, a) mediate for us 24/7, and b) be human with us. Like, He didn’t finish His, you know, His work on the cross and His resurrection and say, okay Father, I’m done with body. Let’s put this aside, I want to be done. He’s still a human. He still, He is flesh and blood. How beautiful is that?! It just draws my heart to Him so much. Because how much He desires to connect with us, and then if He has a body, He’s flesh and blood, that means these things that He’s given us to experience Him through – food, music, nature, God’s creation – like, there are so many things, that’s only, you know, a tip of the iceberg. But there are so many ways in which He has expressed Himself for us to get to know Him. And those things wouldn’t work if we didn’t have bodies. You know. And so we’re gonna have bodies for all of eternity once our, once our bodies are glorified. So how glorious to do this now? When, and I encourage, you know, the listeners: it matters. What we do now in these bodies. We’re gonna have souls forever, and we also are gonna have bodies forever, though the bodies that we have now are going to be glorified into something we can’t imagine. But we’re still gonna have bodies, so what we practice here – this is like practice. This is practice for the glories of heaven! So what we’re doing here matters to the souls of our children, it matters to their actual bodies, and then the way that we raise our children has an impact on their health of course too. So this, I don’t know, yes, the joy of Christ is really what we’re after. And taking joy in Christ and like finding it and then eating it and then living it. Trying to, and that’s not necessarily something I grew up with. And so that’s my, another encouragement I have for listeners: is that, if you didn’t grow up like this, take heart, because neither did I. I did not grow up like this. I knew Christ and we went to church every Sunday, but it was, you know, it was kind of drudgery. And it was sad, it was a sad day really. And I won’t go into the details, but it’s, it was not this. And I think that’s one of the mercies of Christ upon Joe’s and our home, is that, that’s why we’ve worked so hard to make it – especially Sundays – but make every day a joy in the Lord, and how can we stop the generational drudgery and start making it palatable. Not palatable in a bad way, like condescending to the masses but…

Melissa: back to the word delicious.

Jen: yes, back to the word delicious! So I just want to encourage you, whoever’s listening. If you’re like, but, you know, I didn’t have that amazing college experience, or I didn’t grow up a Christian, or I didn’t… you know, I don’t even know what that looks like… that we didn’t really either until we, somebody showed us. So maybe go hang out with somebody who can show you how to do that.

Melissa: I was talking with someone not that long ago about the culture being similar to, you know, the sourdough culture.

Jen: yes. Yes!

Melissa: you know, it’s way easier if you already have a sourdough culture fermenting to make bread, than if you need to go make a flour and water paste and set it out in the air waiting to catch, you know, the yeast from the air. So my dad did that back in the seventies, the early seventies, and that is still the sourdough culture that my mom uses, it’s in our communion bread every Lord’s Day, and it’s the sourdough culture that I have in my fridge that I bake from. And I’ve passed it around to some other people who want to make sourdough but don’t want to have to go to the effort of catching their own yeast. So it is such a gift, even if you don’t already have a culture, right, whether you’re talking, you know, the Christian family culture, or if you’re talking the flour and water and yeast culture – it is way easier to say, I see that it’s lovely, show me, teach me, give me a portion, and then ask God to bless that. And you know, you can share it. So I think that’s what you’re getting at. Is that if you don’t have that culture, find someone who does, and be brought in. Take a portion.

Jen: yeah! And if you don’t know who that is, I would say, I mean, if you’re in the church, on Sundays when you go to church, just – who is it that you’re, you are attracted to in terms of, like, there’s somebody you really, really want to go get to know? For some whatever reason, they are, you’re drawn to them. And I remember that being the case when we were in college. There were a few moms who I was really drawn to, and it ended up being that they were really helpful to me in my understanding of womanhood, of being a wife and starting a home. And my host mom was one of those ladies, but I remember just, kind of jaw-dropping stuff that was just details like, you know, how she put cloth napkins on the table. I was like, whaaaat? are you doing? Like, that’s reserved for, like, Christmas or something, you know in our house. So, but no, her joy was getting those cloth napkins on the table every night and then on Sabbath dinners they would up the ante. But like, to me, I imbibed it all because there was something there that I wanted so badly, I was so hungry for. And not like, okay now I have to do all these things. But what I was imbibing was this joy. It was a beauty that I was hungry for. So I would say, start with just looking for someone in your church that is that, that represents that to you, that you are just drawn to for whatever reason. And they might not even do all the things, there might just be one thing about them that starts that sourdough starter for you, that is that yeast that begins that process for you, for your home life, for, even for just, you know, ruminating on it in your mind and then asking the Lord to, how do I work this out in the details? And it’s gonna take time, you know, Joe and I are eighteen years down the road in marriage, and we definitely didn’t have any sort of… you know, if I had been interviewed eighteen years ago, I wouldn’t have had anything to say except, maybe, I don’t know. You know, I don’t know, but I just know that I want it. I don’t know what it is, but I know I want it.

Melissa: right. So, you mentioned that Scripture obviously, taste and see; you’ve mentioned hospitality and catechism and worship and Sabbath feasting and finding someone that draws you with, you know, their enculturation of Christ and joy. Is there another sort of a resource or a library of resources that you either go to or suggest for someone who wants to pursue this kind of delicious family culture for Christ?

Jen: I think one of the main things, at least in our family, has been music. Music is so powerful and it, I think because it draws on, if you’re listening to good music, it not only draws on our intellect but also our heart. It is so, what the music is in your home matters. What kind of music you have playing. But like the, it’s so important to shape the heart. I think it’s such a powerful way to shape the heart, shape the affections, shape the atmosphere with music. So I would say, just general blanket statement is: music. But then, like, well, what music? For us, there’s okay, there’s a couple things. We love the Slugs & Bugs, I forget, do you remember his name, Melissa?

Melissa: oh, it’s Randall Goodgame.

Jen: there it is, Randall Goodgame. He has a Sing the Bible album volume one, and there’s a couple volumes. Sing the Bible. I would highly recommend this. There are lots of Bible music out there, and this just happens to be one that doesn’t grate on me and is not…

Melissa: that’s huge!

Jen: yeah, it’s a really big deal. It doesn’t grate on me, it’s not cartoony. I actually think as a musician, I’m a musician myself, so as a musician I really look for music that’s actually skillful. So the musicians actually can play their instruments, they can sing really well, and the music matches the words. I think that that’s really important. But it is also a children’s album, so it is really cheerful. But it’s all Scripture. It’s not Scripture trying to rhyme, it’s not paraphrased Scripture, it’s straight Scripture. But he is, Randall, has taken very brilliantly and put it to music. So I just highly recommend it. Also, here’s the thing about this, is that it’s joyful. And there are a lot – and this is, I might be stepping on toes – but there are a lot of new albums out there, I’d say new as in like the last ten years – where the music, even for the children, is morose. It’s very introspective sounding, it’s very kind of morose, it’s very, like, calm and kind of just a single guitar. Like, it feels mopey or it feels moody. I don’t, I don’t want my children having that. They’re just taking that in, like, without even realizing what it is. I can pinpoint it because I understand where music has come from, I’ve studied it. So there’s a mood in our culture right now that’s very, a music mood, that says that music should be a little bit emotional and introspective and moody, and you know, they call it authentic. Well, what I’m arguing for is something that will help the children rise to the joy of the Lord, and this is very important because this will shape an entire generation of children. And if you think about our grandparents who wrote, who grew up in the war eras, right, the kinds of music they were listening to was very cheerful. Very cheerful! What kind of generation did that produce? I’m not talking like, the music’s not the only thing with that, that created them to be the way they are, the greatest generation. But music was definitely a part of that, and if you think about the music that they listened to versus the music that our current culture listens to it’s all, it’s hands down completely different. But I think the cheerfulness – cheerfulness is key. Joy is key. Delight is key. And what I love about Randall Goodgame’s music that it is full on pure 100% Scripture put to cheerful, not annoying but cheerful, delightful music. And I can’t say, I can’t speak of that more highly. So that’s something that Joseph loves. And of course he’s getting Scripture in his bones as he’s listening. And then he’s building, you know, he’s building his race tracks and he’s doing his tiles stuff – you know, he’s got his MagnaTiles, and he’s doing all the stuff, playing using his mind and his body while listening to these fabulous songs that have Scripture just getting in to him, into his bones. And I thought about this the other day, Melissa, and I thought, what are the songs that I remember the most? It’s the hymns that I grew up singing as a child: Great is Thy Faithfulness, and How Great Thou Art, and, like, all the songs I remember sitting in church as a little person, hearing these, hearing Trudy my mom-in-law playing these songs, and learning how to sing parts, and like – but these are the ones, when I am in a moment of trial, these are the ones that bubble to the surface, right? So when they’re children, it’s so critical. It’s such a fabulous time to be, just, for them to be soaking up what’s going on in the house around them, and music is a beautiful way of creating atmosphere.

Melissa: they’re going to soak it up, so we might as well be intentional, as you said before.

Jen: exactly, they’re sponges! It really gets in. We take in things too that we don’t really realize we take in. So, I’ve been encouraged by those. And I think, so I think music. But I also think it’s very important not to, like, make – I think music should be well rounded. So I think that there’s, we have tons of classical, we have really really good jazz, we have really good you know like – Irish and Scottish music, we’ve got music from all genres that we think is excellent and worthy of praise and lovely. And I think that’s super important, too, because we want our to know that God made the whole world. Like, not just the fun music he listens to as a kid, but like, Bach’s Cell Suites. Like, God made Bach. God invented that guy and gave him the smarts to, you know, write that music. So I don’t know, I just, music has just been one of those most powerful tools for paideia. And then I think the most questions we’ve had out of Joseph from, about God and Jesus, is when we’re, at night when we’re putting him to bed, we sing hymns and then he’s asking, well, what is a throne? Because we’re talking about, we’re singing something with Christ on the throne, and what is a throne? And what is Jesus and what is heaven and what does a king mean? And, you know, he’s just asking these little questions. And those are coming from just singing the hymns, you know. Or reading, like, we have these Baby Believer books. I want to show you this one.

Melissa: oh! You got the brand new one!

Jen: we got the brand new one. We have the whole set. So…

Melissa: Danielle Hitchen’s, right?

Jen: Danielle Hitchen, and her Baby Primers, Baby Believer Primers, are just these cutest little board books. So we love them. And they’re just Scripture. Just Scripture with these adorable pictures, and then they’re talking about, like, this one’s talking about shapes. So it’s called Our God: a Shapes Primer. And…

Melissa: oh I’ve been wanting to see that. I don’t have that on my bookshelf yet, because it just came out like last week.

Jen: it just came out, right. And I think because we were Kickstarter supporters at the very beginning, so they send us the book, like, ahead of time when it’s done so we get it first. So we have the whole collection, so that’s also started a whole lot of fabulous questions from Joseph. We just read through them and he loves them. He just sits and listens and looks at the pictures and repeats after Joe and to ask questions. So that’s another little tool that we enjoy.

Melissa: yes. Books and music and food. Those are the three things I’m hearing from you, and those are the three main contributors to the family culture in my home. Those have been the three main things. Books and music and food.

Jen: yeah, that’s wonderful.

Melissa: so I identify with that.

Jen: I think catechisms have a place, but I think if you can carry a catechism into a story, do it. Right? Like, if you get, because what they’re doing with a catechism is they’re pulling the meat off the bones and they’re leaving the bones. And you’re like, well I do need to see, I do need to understand how the skeleton comes together. I need to see that, I need to understand the nuts and the bolts of the faith. But in terms of children, and even for us honestly, are we wooed to Christ by a catechism? Or are we wooed to Christ by the stories of Scripture and by the stories we read, you know, of people writing about the faith, and stories of missionaries – and like, which woos our heart to Christ the most? And that’s, I think, something that we are very thoughtful about with Joseph. We have a catechism which we like a lot, but I don’t think I would recommend – if you’re asking what tools, you know, what are your tools? That’s not a main tool in our repertoire right now, because he’s younger. I think later on it will be. But right now, stories. Just stories just to woo the heart. And I just, I want to be wooed to the Lord. And He does that through so many different means. So…

Melissa: yeah. Well is there anything else that God has, I don’t know, used to speak to you and your heart lately? Have you read anything or listened to anything that has fed your soul with beauty? We’ve talking about how your son and his heart has been nurtured. What about for you as a woman?

Jen: yes, that’s such a good question. I, well, I love reading. I love reading! I’m always in a book and I’m always reading. I think, like I was talking about how stories are so important. Things that really minister to me in terms of, I think, the faith – in terms of the faith and of being a faithful woman and a faithful wife in this household, and then the faithfulness that a loving Christian mama and a loving Christian wife, the power that she has to create a beautiful atmosphere just almost by accident, right? I mean, you have to be intentional. But like, if I am in love with my Savior, and if I am fed on the beautiful stories of His people, of Him and His people, then I am, I’ve got everything I need to pour out. So for me, my reading is like, the life of the mind, it is so important. I think that cultivating my spirit, cultivating my mind around what is true and beautiful, is to critical, so… I recently just read some, I’ve been reading through some homeschool books, and I’ve been reading, my favorite thing though is reading, like, autobiographies of brave people. Brave people. And this is gonna touch on our times, but like, we’re in a time where, you know, there’s a culture war. And it’s actually, there’s been a culture war for about a hundred years in our country, eighty years ish. But I would say it’s now getting, it’s now getting to the last skirmishes, the last war, where we either are going to have a Christian nation, a nation that turns the corner back to Christianity, or we’re going to have very, we’re gonna be living in major enemy territory. This is something that’s so critical to know as parents. And so I think that reading, for me, reading has been such a good way of making sure that I, in my, you know, my heart and my spirit, and imbibing those stories that encourage me to be courageous, to take a stand where it is needed, to stay the course, right? So as Christian parents, are we going to stay the course? Or are we gonna give in to the culture? And that, even that can be expressed in small ways, right? So, you know, am I going to stay the course with homeschooling? Am I going to stay the course with worship when all the churches want to close down or when somebody says I can’t go worship? Am I going to stay the course with, you know, making sure that our home culture is one of Christian atmosphere? Am I going to stay the course in the small things? And so, to be honest, like, really good stories of brave, courageous men and women help me so much. And so there have been so many different stories that I’ve read that – one that I’m just revisiting is the one, what’s it called, oh now it just went straight out of my brain. Oh. She’s a missionary in China and then China gets taken over by… during WWII… and she becomes a… oh hold on, let me look it up. She becomes a slave and a prisoner of war. Do you remember, do you know what I’m talking about, Melissa?

Melissa: I’m trying to think. I just finished reading Radiant by Richard Hannula with the kids…

Jen: okay, yeah, that’s a marvelous one of short stories.

Melissa: yes, and I think it touched on who you’re talking about, but I can’t think of the name.

Jen: I know! I’m so sorry, you guys. I will remember in a second. But things like that…

Melissa: I revisited The Hiding Place, you know, by Corrie ten Boom, this summer.

Jen: that’s one of the best.

Melissa: that was just a really good, timely revisit.

Jen: yeah. It’s so important to read stories like that. So any of the missionaries, any just brave people that are doing the right thing, just really refreshes me a lot. And then, like, podcasts on homemaking, podcasts on food, podcasts on music, podcasts on culture, podcasts like this – where you are really being intentional about your, not only your thoughts about it, about something, but also how you’re going to implement that into your home. Because it does need to get, you know, our theology needs to be practiced and come out in order to be real and to bless somebody. So, um, sorry, my brain keeps trying to figure out what that, the title of this story is. But I recently reread it and it was so, so good. Darlene. That’s her name. Darlene Deibler Rose, I believe, is her name, and it’s an autobiography. Let me look it up real quick, I just remembered her name so now I have to find out, you guys.

Melissa: Testimony of Darlene Rose, interesting. I don’t think that’s a name that rings a bell for me.

Jen: oh, there it is! Evidence Not Seen. That’s it: Evidence Not Seen: a Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II. You guys. If you have never read this, do it right now. Like, this is your book of the month.

Melissa: it’s going on my TBR right now.

Jen: this is your book of the month, you have to read this! And it’s really good for our times that we’re living in right now. One of the things, two things that I walked away from that… Well, actually the main thing. Let me just say. The main thing I walked away having gleaned from this book was: know the Word of God.

Melissa: amen.

Jen: have it in your bones. Just start memorizing. Just start! Just get it in your bones, just read it enough that you feel like you can recall it when you need to. Because God, I mean, I’m not gonna give away the story, but oh my goodness. She… God sustained her in crazy times through His Word. And some of it just, just His work. Like, and Corrie ten Boom, you know, there’s a lot of that too, in what she suffered and in how, you know, she had the Word, but then at times when she didn’t have the Bible at hand, she would remember Christ, remember the Word of God. And there’s promises in there that you have to cling to. And I just can’t, I can’t recommend it enough. So Evidence Not Seen. You have to read it.

Melissa: excellent, yep. So I just put it on my list. So there we go. [laughter]

Jen: I’m so glad, yeah. And so that’s the kind of thing I need. Sometimes I need a lighthearted, let’s just throw on a podcast about homemaking and get that going while I make dinner. Sometimes I need something more, you know, more rich and more deep because I am a deep thinker and I really think through life, you know, I really think through it. Sometimes I think too much, so I need to, I need lighthearted stuff too.

Melissa: well, is there any final thought you have or did we skip anything that sort of stood out? I feel like now I have more to ponder and wonder about, and I’m gonna go look for some good jazz music. Maybe I’ll have to request some [laughter]

Jen: yes, okay, if you want some really good jazz – Paul Desmond. Go look up Paul Desmond, he has some really beautiful, just beautiful stuff. And then if you want something Classical, you’ve got to check out Bach’s Cello Suites. They are pretty astounding. Any of his organ works are crazy, like, just, he was a brilliant man. And then, like, we love… I don’t know, there’s so much we love, so I won’t go into it. But also decor. You know? Like think about how your decor feels in your home. Think about how warm and inviting it needs to be. What colors can you put together to make it feel warm? What colors go together that make it feel colder and more off-putting? How can you change the lighting? There’s a real, you know, big push right now with lightbulbs being the LED so that they save all kinds of money. But you know what, those things are cold. They – unless you get the warm LED ambiance lights, and I just found a bulb that I actually really like. I mean, this is getting into brass tacks now but [laughter] honestly, honestly, the lighting in your home matters! Because if somebody walks into a fluorescent lit home, which is basically what those LED bulbs are… they last a lifetime, but they’re ugly, and they feel cold and blue. Now, if you do that versus you do an old fashioned incandescent or you do one of those LED bulbs that are like really, really warm – then you have just transformed your whole entire house. And it creates a vibe for your children that encourages their hearts to be cheerful, and it encourages their bodies to relax and to be at home, and then they’re more ready to learn, they’re more ready to change their attitudes if they need to. Like, think about how you feel, you know, in an office space or a doctor’s office versus how you feel at home when you’re relaxing. You know. I just, you know, a little tidbit. But decor is really fun to play with, and how to, you know, how to encourage that sort of atmosphere where joy, the delight of Christ, is present.

Melissa: yeah. Well, tell us where we can find you around the internet. Because you share these things on YouTube and Instagram and websites and all of that. So tell us where we can find you.

Jen: okay, yes! So we’ve got a slightly outdated website. It’s HysaHouse.com And outdated meaning the pictures are old, but the content there is still really good. And you’ll read, you’ll find our whole story there. I just went into a tiny little part of it for the paideia aspect of it, but you’ll find our whole story there, how Joseph came along, all the health trials and stuff. And then I’m on Instagram @JenCarlson and Facebook as well @JenAndJoeCarlson and then I do have a YouTube channel called HysaHouse. So Hysa is h-y-s-a and then house. And there I’m really focusing on hospitality and wellness. So one of my passions is wellness, and that’s because I have walked through so many health trials. So I really am passionate about walking beside people who are in chronic illness or in, you know, long term problems or who are infertile, having trouble getting pregnant. These are some of the things that really matter to me and that God has really given me great mercy in. And so I really want to share what I’ve been given, and really help come alongside people that are walking those journeys. And so then I have a business that I run from home for practical wellness and for natural wellness means. And so those are the ways that I, you know, kind of reach out to people and support people in their journeys. But yeah, Instagram and YouTube and I need to get my website updated now that we’re in Texas, but all the content is still accurate, so yeah.

Melissa: and it’s still beautiful.

Jen: thank you.

Melissa: and delicious! [laughter]

Jen: and delicious! Yes. And I love to cook, and some of the goals of my YouTube video coming up are some recipes and cooking for everyone.

Melissa: anytime I want to make a salad, I just think, okay, Jen Carlson’s Everyday Dressing. [laughter]

Jen: I’m so glad! That is so fun, Melissa.

Melissa: there we go. So JenCarlson and HysaHouse. And I’m so grateful, I feel like it’s just such a gift to be able to chat with you today, and yeah, it’s like getting this little glimpse into the home culture that you have and just seeing what God’s continuing to do with you. And I have a feeling we’re going to be doing this again.

Jen: okay! Wonderful!

Melissa: and I’m just, I’m so grateful. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day and life to just share your heart and to share that delicious nature of our Christ, because I – oh, we just can’t get enough, right?

Jen: yeah, we can’t get enough. I know, I know. God is so kind. And thank you, Melissa. And I so appreciate all that you do. I love how Paideia Northwest is growing and, you know, Paideia Southeast now. And I so appreciate all that you’re doing. And I am, you know, brand new mama compared to you, and brand new homeschooler, so I am always drawing from you, and what you do with your boys is just mind-blowing actually to me. How you sing with them and do parts and harmonies, and they’re learning so much, like, musically, and just – anyway, I just wanted to tell you that that is such a blessing for me to kind of follow closely.

Melissa: God is so kind.

Jen: yeah, so kind, yeah.

Melissa: God is so kind. I am really looking forward to getting to connect with you in the future, including face to face one of these days.

Jen: yes, me too. Thank you, Melissa.

Melissa: thank you.
And that brings today’s conversation to a close. You can find more conversations on paideia at PaideiaNorthwest.com and PaideiaSoutheast.com for more resources and practical encouragement. Join me again next time for another Paideia Conversation, and in the meantime peace be with you.